Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

I hate to end the year review-wise on a negative note, but that's what SuperPhillip Central is doing regardless and regrettably. The review in question? Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. Let's check out why this entry of the Super Monkey Ball series was the wrong one to revive and remaster with the SPC review.

A remaster that needed more time to ripen

Super Monkey Ball was one of my favorite launch titles for the Nintendo GameCube back in 2001, and its sequel improved on the formula in nearly every way. Ever since, however, Super Monkey Ball games have gone from middling at best to abysmal at worst. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was one of those "middling" games, and launched with the Nintendo Wii in 2006. It added motion control movement for guiding one's Monkey Ball around each stage and a jump button. That wasn't all of the unnecessary additions either.

Now, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD remasters the original Wii game--why of all Super Monkey Ball games SEGA chose this one I'll never understand--but with terribly bad boss battles, little redeeming content, and poor mini-games, the bananas in this blitz are of the rotten variety.

Every world grants you an opportunity to rack up some lives
via a bounty of bananas in these bonus stages.
There are 100 main stages in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, and they are divided up between ten worlds. Persistent (see: masochistic) players can opt to try to complete each world without using a continue, but that's pretty much just setting yourself up for punishment by the time the sixth world rolls around. The game loses its motion control steering of the stage to guide your monkey in a ball that was found in the original Banana Blitz, and instead utilizes traditional analog stick movement. This makes it so stages are easier overall to complete in some regards, but many latter levels in the game are rage-inducing in both their lengths and the how precise you have to be with your movements--something made more manageable with the better fine tuning one can do with gyro-based controls.

These levels make yo' monkey wanna... JUMP! JUMP!
The added ability to jump lends itself well to the level design, requiring some quick hops here and there, jumps over gaps, and precision timing. The physics on display here in Banana Blitz HD are just as good as ever, so seldom do you feel you were cheated out of clearing a level because your Monkey Ball didn't bounce the right way. It's generally always user error that results in falling off the course.

What Banana Blitz HD takes away in motion control movement, the game keeps one of the more unsightly and unsavory parts of the game--the end world boss battles. These encounters are maddening to try to stay on the stage, avoiding boss attacks, all the while contending with the camera as you attempt to attack your target's weak spot. Several times I'd find myself losing lives like quarters in a slot machine just because the bosses were so frustrating and infuriating. While the mechanics of the bosses are bad and drove me ballistic, I can say that I did love seeing each design.

The bosses are a low point to a game that I already don't think about too highly.
If you can challenge yourself to push through the 100 stages of the game with persistence and patience, you'll find yourself unlocking content in the form of alternate costumes for the Monkey Ball cast, as well as a not-so-secret unlockable that SEGA made no attempt to hide in its promotional trailers for the game. That would be Sonic the Hedgehog, who is the fastest character in the game and instead of accumulating bananas to acquire 1-Ups, he collects rings.

Aside from the 100 stages in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD's main mode of play, there are a selection of ten mini-games from the original Banana Blitz's 50 to choose from. However, between guiding a monkey down an assortment of see-saws to gather bananas, snowboarding downhill on an obstacle-ridden track, and whacking moles like you're at Chuck E. Cheese--but without the fun of getting tangible rewards like pencil erasers for doing so--there is not much to be excited about in this collection of mini-games. Even the fan favorite Monkey Target, while returning, is a pale imitation of past installments and fails to provide any long lasting entertainment. If you're looking for any kind of depth to these mini-games, you're going to be sorely disappointed like I was.

Banana Blitz HD's Monkey Target is unfortunately not quite on target when it concerns fun.
Another disappointment I found with Banana Blitz HD was the removal of most of the original soundtrack from the Wii version. This is apparently due to licensing issues, something SEGA seemingly struggles with more than other companies. It's a darn shame, as the music of the original Banana Blitz was one of my favorite parts of the game. Such insanely catchy music that game had. What replaces it is mostly songs taken from other Super Monkey Ball games, and more times than I'd like to hear, the music is ill-fitting for the stages or scenarios it's played in. Though, speaking of catchy music, I must decree that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD's new vocal theme is an insane earworm and a good one at that.

Someone in charge of infrastructure better get to all of these broken bridges.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD gives me a lot of questions. The top question being: Of all the Super Monkey Ball games that could have been remade, why this particular one? Other questions include: Why does this game exist? Who asked for it? Will SEGA be surprised when this poorly received remaster bombs at retail, and when it does, will SEGA think that means no one wants new games in the series instead of thinking, "Hey, maybe Banana Blitz was a bad game to revive?" Ugh. All of these questions are driving me bananas, so just take your review grade, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, and then make like bananas and split.

[SPC Says: D+]

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